This evening’s must read:
11 October 2005
We note seven critical themes from the Zawahiri-Zarqawi letter. The first four confirm al-Qaida’s long-term strategy and core beliefs; the latter three reflect new information about how senior al-Qaida leader Zawahiri views developments in Iraq â€“ and elsewhere â€“ turning against them.
Further confirmation of al-Qaida’s long-term strategy/beliefs:
Â· Iraq is becoming the central battlefield for al-Qaida senior leaders in Pakistan . Zawahiri views Iraq as the bridgehead for the creation of a new Islamic caliphate â€“ their ultimate objective. The letter makes clear al-Qa’ida intends to wrest control of Iraq from the Iraqi people so they can use the country in pursuit of other goals.
o Quote: “I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam’s history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this eraâ€¦.”
Â· Al-Qaida’s ambitions do not stop at Iraq ‘s borders. Establishing the political dominance of Sunni militants in Iraq is only a first step—a means to an end—in realizing al-Qaida’s ambitions of imposing its control over the broader Middle East. In fact, al-Qaida’s focus on Iraq has nothing to do with Iraqi nationalism, but is purely instrumental as a beachhead for al-Qaida’s broader agenda. Under al-Qaida, Iraq will serve as a terrorist haven and staging ground for attacks against Iraq ‘s neighbors and quite possibly Western nations — all those judged to be ruling in violation of their distorted interpretation of Islamic law â€“ and clearly destabilize the region. According to Zawahiri:
o Quote: “â€¦the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals: The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq . The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate over as much territory as you can spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas. . . . The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq . The fourth stage: â€¦[This is ] the clash with Israel , because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity. . . . [T]heir ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.”
o Quote: “It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world, specifically, in the Levant, Egypt , and the neighboring states of the Peninsula and Iraq ; however, the center would be in the Levant and Egypt .”
Â· The letter demonstrates that pulling US forces out of Iraq is the wrong approach â€“ that terrorists will not simply lay down their arms when American forces depart Iraq . Al-Qaida and its terrorist brethren will not go away when the Coalition hands over security control to Iraqi forces; rather, they are committed to overthrowing the elected, democratic Iraqi government and ruling the country according to their interpretation of Islamic law.
o Quote: “And it is that the Mujahidin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq , and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us.”
Â· Zawahiri believes in religious intolerance and converting, conquering, or killing anyone who does not believe as he does. His only concern is how to deceive the population that this is not the case by urging Zarqawi to reduce attacks on Shia civilians. Zawahiri contends that Shia are heretics. He views Shi’ism as a “religious school based on excess and falsehood” and as a danger to what he sees as true, Sunni Islam. Zawahiri does not condemn Zarqawi for killing Shia. Indeed, the Shia, along with anyone who does not blindly follow al-Qaida’s twisted interpretation of Islam, will be forced either to adopt al-Qa’ida’s extremist ideology or face repression or death if the terrorists establish control. Zawahiri’s concerns are purely tactical; managing the press and gaining the support, or acquiescence, of the people.
o Quote: “People of discernment and knowledge among Muslims know the extent of danger to Islam of the 12’er school of Shi’ism. It is a religious school based on excess and falsehood whose function is to accuse the companions of Muhammad of heresy [in] a campaign against Islam, in order to free the way for a group of those who call for a dialogue in the name of the hidden mahdi who is in control of existence and infallible in what he does. Their prior history in cooperating with the enemies of Islam is consistent with their current reality of connivance with the crusaders.”
o Quote: “The collision between any state based on the model of prophecy with the Shi’ites is a matter that will happen sooner or later. This is the judgment of history, and these are the fruits to be expected from the rejectionist Shi’a sect and their opinion of the Sunnis. These are clear, well-known matters to anyone with a knowledge of history, the ideologies, and the politics of states.”